Human Trafficking in Milwaukee 101 {with Exploit No More}

MKE Moms Blog and Exploit No More are partnering again this summer to bring you more education and parenting resources as it relates to the city of Milwaukee and human trafficking. We are excited to announce that our partnership will continue into the school year with a t-shirt campaign launching this fall to raise awareness and represent our support for our community and our kids.

human trafficking

Just the words “human trafficking” sound harsh — and the reality is, they outline actions that are even worse. 

Human trafficking is the trade of humans for the purpose of forced labor, sexual exploitation, and/or slavery. Even though slavery has been abolished, human trafficking still exists. Human trafficking is the modern-day form of slavery. Researchers estimate that some 21 million people are enslaved worldwide.  

Trafficking in the United States

Exploitation and trafficking are not something that happen “across the lake” or a “third world country problem.” It’s a thriving industry in America; estimated to bring in $150 billion annually with approximately $99 billion of that amount through sexual exploitation. 

Like with any industry, there is a supply and demand chain that exists within trafficking. 

  • The Demand: Known as John Does, as they wish to remain anonymous. These John Does (the majority of them being men) are the average man; an attorney, a bank teller, a surgeon, a father, a husband. There is no “set” profile for somebody who buys sex. 
  • The Supplier: Known as the trafficker or pimp, they do as their job title says, they fulfill the need of the demand. Traffickers are traditionally men, but more women are being exposed as pimps as well. Like the demand, there is no profile for what a trafficker looks like. Some common traits are violence or guilt to control victims, instilling fear, and using love to manipulate. 
  • The Supply: The victim — adult, child, woman, man, girl, boy — who is being forced into slavery or bondage by the trafficker and being sold to the demand. The most common demographic, worldwide and locally for minors, are girls between the ages of 12-14. 

Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like it does in the movies and if it did, it would be an easier problem to address. It could look like an addict trapped into being sold for his or her next fix, a student who got caught up with the wrong crowd and meets an older boyfriend, or a broken family trying to make money to put food on the table. The vulnerabilities that traffickers look for aren’t one pattern: they could prey on someone who is lacking basic needs, looking for a score, or craving love and attention.  

Trafficking in Our Backyard 

Milwaukee is a nation wide hub for both suppliers and supply. Pimp culture runs deep within the roots of this city’s history. It also makes MKE a hot spot for the underground trade of humans, specifically minors. 

79% of human trafficking cases in Wisconsin occur in Milwaukee and 92% of Milwaukee’s known cases involve girls under the age of eighteen.

So, how did it get so bad? How did we get here? The answer is two part:

  1. Our History: Milwaukee’s divide culturally, racially, and economically is nothing new and it has helped to feed to embedded pimp culture through lack of jobs and by exposing vulnerable youth. Think of it like a tick: if you get the tick off of you before it attaches, you can get rid of it and move on with more awareness. But, if you don’t address the tick and it starts it’s process of gorging itself, you have to pick and pry to make sure you get the head. That process of picking and prying is where we are at right now, we have to get the head. But in this instance, the head means the demand, the supply, and the victims, making human trafficking a wide-reaching problem requiring a multidisciplinary approach to addressing the issue. 
  2. Our Outlook on Human Kind: We do not build up other humans. The world is designed to protect oneself first and keep blinders up to injustice. That is unacceptable. Our culture must change. One of the biggest prevention measures we (as a society) can take against human trafficking is investing in other people. We have a duty to ourselves and our fellow humans to invest in our friendships, to grow confident kids, to create boundaries on social media, to stop comparing and wholly live in our value and worth. When we don’t commit to these things, we are – whether realizing it or not – allowing a culture of ignorance to run the world.

Now what? Moving Forward in Hope

At Exploit No More (ENM), we have made it our mission to counter the darkness of child sexual exploitation with light. We do that through the key areas of awareness, advocacy, and aftercare. 

Awareness: We provide strategic training and prevention education that sheds light on the issue. We work with churches, businesses, youth groups, schools, healthcare, social workers, and more to build value in our community.  

Advocacy: The policies and services that exist in Milwaukee do not adequately support the change that is necessary. We provide victim-centered advocacy and policy recommendations that support survivors. 

Aftercare: Human trafficking destroys human dignity. ENM has purchased a home that will serve as a long-term residential home and provide community-based aftercare to restore lives. The home is set to open in early 2018. 

Small Gestures, Big Impact 

As we continue to work in these three areas, our drive is to raise awareness and unite Milwaukee in countering sexual exploitation and the trade of humans. We have found that small gestures make the biggest impact; will you join us in that? Not sure how to begin?

  • Invest in a friendship: Grab a coffee or lunch. 
  • Take time to get to know your neighbors, summer is the perfect season for hosting a dinner! 
  • Share/repost human trafficking articles on the socials to bring more awareness to your network: Follow us on Facebook/Instagram/Twitter @exploitnomore for a starting place.   
  • Build up your kids: Set aside time to not only help with homework but just talk about your kids day or push your babies a little extra in the swing that makes them giggle so hard! 
  • Attend a trafficking awareness event or host an educational meet-up. 
  • Learn the signs of human trafficking, and report the signs if you see anything suspicious. 
  • Become an Exploit No More Freedom Fighter!

Freedom Fighters – A Volunteer Network with Exploit No More

Join our network of Freedom Fighters because we are stronger together! A Freedom Fighter is dedicated to caring about the issue, engaging with friends, family, and colleagues through educational awareness, and giving $30 per month – a dollar a day. Let’s be honest, I spend more on soy chais every month from Starbucks. The financial support of Freedom Fighters is vital to opening up our aftercare home and providing long-term counseling services to survivors and their families. 

Connect with ENM 

For more human trafficking resources and education and becoming a Freedom Fighter, find us across the socials (@exploitnomore on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter) and our website (exploitnomore.org). Contact us via email ([email protected]) with any specific questions/comments or want to chat further about volunteer opportunities

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